Over the years I have fielded many questions from friends regarding their children and the early reading process. As a former teacher, master’s degree holder in literacy, and a mom of four, I am an easy target for such queries. I remember one phone call a few years ago from a friend…she wanted me to settle a marital dispute. While her first grader was reading aloud, her husband was covering up the pictures. She told him to stop, he disagreed, hence the phone call.
My verdict was in: wife right, husband wrong. Sound familiar? Not to malign you husbands out there, but for some reason husbands are typically the picture-cover-uppers. In their defense, I do understand it. Most of us don’t remember much about learning to read, but if we remember anything, we typically remember one strategy: sound it out. In other words, focus on the letters, ignore the pictures, and get on with it.
Now don’t get me wrong, sounding it out IS a good strategy when trying to decode unknown words; however, a typical beginner reader is still becoming familiar with all of the letter sounds and combinations, so if the word is especially tricky, you may soon have a drowning reader, frantically grasping onto letter sounds that don’t follow the typical patterns (why does ph sound like f?).
So what is a parent to do? Throw a life raft and remind your reader to look at the picture. Ask them, what makes sense? You will be amazed at how many times beginner readers will pop right out with the correct word when their attention is drawn to the meaning of what they are reading. Then, as their understanding of phonics grows, they will rely less and less on those pictures. And to the joy of you picture-cover-uppers, they will indeed get on with it.
For more information on this topic, including resources to use at home with your beginner reader, age appropriate book suggestions, and practical tips to encourage reading growth; join us Thursday, May 19, at Myers Park Country Club at 7:00 p.m. for “Helping Your Beginner Reader at Home.”
For registration cost and details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org by May 18.